Colonoscopy Screening for Preventing and Detecting Colon Cancer
A colonoscopy screening can not only catch colon cancer early – when it is most treatable – but a colonoscopy can also stop colon cancer before it develops by finding and removing pre-cancerous polyps.
Schedule a Colonoscopy
Colonoscopy Procedure & Screening
More than 50,000 men and women in the U.S. die annually from colorectal cancer, making it the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Yet, it’s also one of the most preventable cancers.
University Hospitals offers convenient access to colonoscopy services at locations throughout Northeast Ohio. Our physicians are highly trained in both detecting the presence of polyps or other abnormalities and at diagnosing colorectal cancer. If colon cancer is found, our patients have access to state-of-the-art treatment options and the full expertise of our colorectal cancer team.
Who Should Get a Colonoscopy
You should have a colonoscopy screening if:
- You are a man or woman age 45 or older with no risk factors
- You are a man or woman age 40 with a first-degree relative who has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer
- You have a personal history of colorectal polyps, blood in your stool, abdominal pain or other symptoms
What is a Colonoscopy?
- What Happens During a Colonoscopy Test?
During a colonoscopy test, your doctor examines the inner lining of the rectum and colon using a thin flexible tube called a colonoscope, which is inserted into the colon through the rectum. A small camera mounted to the end of the colonoscope takes pictures, allowing the doctor to look for abnormalities, including polyps and areas of inflammation. Usually the doctor will remove the polyps that are found during the procedure using tiny surgical instruments designed for this purpose. Although many polyps are benign (not cancer), some may be precancerous and removing them during a colonoscopy can prevent colon cancer from developing. The doctor will remove all polyps so that they can be tested in the lab to rule out or confirm cancer.
- How to Prepare for a Colonoscopy
Before you schedule your colonoscopy, tell your doctor about all the medicines you take. You may be asked to stop taking some medications for up to one week before the procedure. Talk to your doctor about which medicines you may take on the day of the test. Proper preparation for a colonoscopy is very important if the test is to be successful. The entire colon must be empty and clean so that the walls are visible when the camera is threaded through. This cleansing is done through the use of special laxatives.
The laxative solution can taste unpleasant and some people may find it difficult to drink all that is required. However it is very important to drink it all to achieve a complete cleanse, which is necessary for the most accurate results. Here are some tips to make it easier:
- Bypass your taste buds by drinking the solution through a straw
- Follow each sip of laxative with water or clear juice or soda to take away the taste
- Suck on sliced lemon wedges between sips
The laxative will cause you to have loose, frequent bowel movements and watery diarrhea, so you will want to stay close to a bathroom. Don’t plan any outings on preparation day – instead, pamper yourself. Watch movies, read, nap and keep drinking those clear liquids to avoid becoming dehydrated.Learn More About Preparing for a Colonoscopy
- What to Expect on the Day of Your Colonoscopy
Before your colonoscopy, a specially trained nurse will put an IV in your arm, through which you will receive fluids and a mild sedative to help you relax. When it is time to begin, you will be positioned on your side. You may experience mild discomfort during the colonoscopy procedure but it should not be painful – in fact, many people have no memory of the procedure once it is over.
After the procedure, which typically takes about 30-45 minutes, you will be taken into a room to be monitored while the sedative wears off. Recovery time will range from 30 to 90 minutes.
Typically you are able to go home one to two hours after the colonoscopy procedure is completed. However, you must avoid any significant activities, including operating a vehicle and making any important decisions, until the day after your procedure. A family member or friend will need to drive you to and from your appointment. Once home, you may resume eating but are advised to only eat small amounts of food until your bowel returns to normal.
- Colonoscopy Test Results and Follow-Up
Initial findings will be discussed with you after your colonoscopy, including the quality of the preparation and the extent of colon examined. Certain findings are made on visual inspection, while others require waiting for biopsy results. The quality of the bowel preparation and certain risk factors will determine the timing of your next screening test; poor bowel preparation or an incomplete exam will result in a recommendation to have the procedure repeated or have your next colonoscopy performed sooner.
If no polyps or suspicious areas are found during the procedure, your next colonoscopy screening may not be needed until 10 or more years later. If polyps are found and removed during the colonoscopy screening, they will be sent to a lab for testing. Biopsy results can take some time to process and review, but you can expect a communication from your physician within 10 days of the procedure.
If the samples taken are found to be non-cancerous or pre-cancerous, your doctor will determine a screening schedule for you based on the number of polyps and their characteristics, your risk factors and your family history. It may be recommended that you be screened again in three to five years.
If colorectal cancer is found, laboratory tests will determine the stage or extent of the cancer. Your treatment options will largely depend on that stage. When colon cancer is found in the earliest stages, it has a 90 percent survival rate.
- Other Screening Options
Although colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for colon cancer screening, there are other screening tests available to people for whom a colonoscopy may not be appropriate.